Lesson  12 September 14 - 20

When Five Plus Five Equaled Five

Read for This Weeks Study: Matt. 25:1-13.

Memory Text: "Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28, NKJV).

Key Thought:  Waiting for the Lord's return does not mean that we sit idle.  We prepare ourselves for the glorious event by ever strengthening our relationship with Him and serving others on His behalf.



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PREPARING FOR A SPECIAL EVENT CAN BE AS EXCITING AS THE EVENT ITSELF.  And certainly thoughtful preparations help us to be confident that the event will be a rewarding one.

Around the world, people prepare to celebrate the first coming of Christ in many different ways.  In Mexico, families trim their houses with greenery and nativity scenes.  These decorations set the stage for the many posadas in which they will take part--processions of family and friends that go from house to house by prearranged invitation.  These processions symbolize Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem.

Lights play an important role in Canada, where in Esquimalt, British Columbia, the Canadian navy prepares for the holiday by stringing their ships with colored lights.  Meanwhile, Ukrainian families in Canada often plan to place a candle on the table during Christmas Eve to symbolize the star of Bethlehem.  Three special loaves of bread must be baked to place around the candle.  These represent God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

What effort do we need to put into preparing for Christ's second coming?  This week's lesson will answer this all-important question.

Sunday September 14

VIVID PICTURES (Matt. 25:1-13).

Jesus' setting for the parable of the ten maidens portrays a vivid picture of an ancient Near Eastern wedding.  Usually held in the evening, the bridal party would await the bridegroom at the bride's home.  Upon arrival, the groom would accompany the bride and attendants to his own house, where the guests would partake of a feast.  While the maidens linger, their lamps burn as brightly as their expectations.  We can imagine them gathered around the door, holding their lamps out into the night as they search for signs of the bridegroom's arrival. But as his delay lengthens, they grow weary with waiting.

Match the following elements of the parable to the items below.  (a) the experience being related by the parable; (b) the five wise maidens; (c) the five foolish maidens; (d) the bridegroom; (e) the lamps; (f) the oil; (g) a time of waiting; (h) the arrival of the bridegroom; (i) midnight; (j) light from the oil.

____ 1. the Holy Spirit

____ 2. the word of God

____ 3. those who know the truth and have yielded to the Holy Spirit

____ 4. the darkest hour of earth's history

____ 5. Christ's second coming

____ 6. good deeds; works of service

____ 7. the experience of the church just before the second coming

____ 8. when our faith is tested

____ 9. those who know the truth, but have not yielded to the Holy Spirit

____ 10. Christ

We will discuss each of these elements throughout the week.  You can check your answers with the material found in each day's lesson.

Jesus knew that the end of His earthly ministry was near, that soon the disciples would be in turmoil as they gazed upon Him dying a criminal's death.  With this story, He was telling them that there was hope beyond their Calvary tears.  Hope in the coming of their Lord.

When and how has the Lord shown you hope beyond the tears that blinded your eyes?  How did these experiences help you to have faith in all of Christ's promises?

Monday September 15

(Ps. 119:105; Zech. 4:1-6; Matt. 25:11, 12).

What meaning did Christ give to His parable of the ten maidens?  Matt. 25:13

As we study each element of the parable, we will learn more about what it means to keep watch.

Just as the bridesmaids waited for the groom, so the church waits for Christ to return.  What is our "lamp" and "oil"?   Ps. 119:105; Zech. 4:1-6.

Zerubbabel and his companions were depressed.  They had little resources with which to rebuild the temple.  And opposition from their enemies stalled what little they could do.  But God showed them that His objectives are achieved not so much through human effort as through the power of His Holy Spirit.

So it is with the church today.  Its members know the truth as it is in Scripture.   They believe in Christ's return and eagerly look forward to seeing Him.  But while they wait, their faith is tested.  The resources they have to work with appear small, opposition to their efforts overwhelming.  Those who have yielded to the influence of the Holy Spirit will encounter success and will be ready to meet Christ.  But those who have not yielded, fall prey to discouragement and will, therefore, be caught off guard when Christ returns.

Such people are acquainted with God's commands and promises.  But they have not allowed these to transform their lives.  Like the stony-ground hearers in the parable of the sower, they gladly accept the truth, but they do not permit it to become the motivating force in their lives.

Listen to the cries of the five foolish maidens at the door of the groom's house, for they teach us well.  First, there are certain items we cannot obtain at the last minute.  A relationship with Christ is one such thing.  We cannot expect to be ready for Him if we have not prepared for Him.  And second, there are certain things we cannot borrow.  Just as the foolish maidens could not borrow oil from their companions, so we cannot borrow a relationship with God.  We must have our own.

How would you rate your relationship with God?  Do you depend too much on those around you for your spiritual well-being?  Always remember, someone else's account is a bank from which you can withdraw blessings.

Tuesday September 16

MAKING A DIFFERENCE (Matt. 25:7; Joel 2:28, 29).

All ten virgins were surprised by the bridegroom's arrival.  But only five were prepared to make the trip to his house.  What was it that made the difference?  Matt. 25:7,  8.  What about the Christian life does this symbolize?

"The wise virgins of the parable represent those Christians who understand, appreciate, and avail themselves of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  'Wise' indeed are Christians today who welcome the Holy Spirit into their lives and cooperate with Him in His appointed task."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 508.

Describe the various tasks of the Holy Spirit. John 3:5, 6; 16:7-15; Gal. 5:16-26; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Joel 2:28, 29.

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual fruit to all believers and special gifts based on our individual abilities and the needs that exist in each of our personal experiences.  The motivating factor in the distribution of these gifts is to prepare us to meet Christ at His second coming.  (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 772.)

Ephesians 4:12 further states that we receive these gifts for yet another reason: "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (NIV). In Ephesians, chapter 5, Paul urges us to live as children of light.  "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)" (Eph. 5:8, 9, NIV).  When our lights shine as a result of the Holy Spirit transforming our lives and living in us, the good deeds and works of service He enables us to perform will illuminate all the little corners of the world in which we live.

Joel 2:28, 29 speaks of more than just the reception of the Spirit that accompanies conversion and changes the life.  This prophecy met partial fulfillment at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21).  It will reach its fullness "in the manifestation of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel."--The Great Controversy, p. ix.

How is it a source of encouragement to you that the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts according to our individual abilities and needs?  Why should you not feel slighted if someone has a greater number of gifts, or more visible gifts, than you have?

Wednesday September 17

NEVER GIVE UP THE SHIP!  (Matt.25:5; Gen.7:7-10).

In the parable of the ten virgins, there is a period of waiting symbolizing the wait for Christ's return that we are now experiencing.  During this time, our faith is often tried, and we are inclined to grow weary.

As you read the following texts, note who was involved, what they were waiting for, what they did while waiting, and the final outcome.

Gen. 7:7-10

Exod. 32:1-4,

Acts 1:4, 5;
2:1-4, 14, 41

Who waited and what were they
waiting for?
What did theydo while waiting?      
What was the final outcome?      

What do these examples teach us about the importance of what we do while we wait for Christ to return?

It has been 2,000 years since Christ promised to return.  Why do you think His coming has been delayed so long?  What negative effects has this had on you?  What can you do to overcome these effects and take Christ's promise more seriously?

Thursday September 18

WHAT TIME IS IT? (Matt. 24:30, 31; 25:6).

In the parable we are studying this week, when did the bridegroom finally arrive?  Matt. 25:6.

The time when the bridegroom arrives symbolizes the point in earth's history when Christ will return. What will the world be like just before the second coming?  

Matt. 24:5  __________________________________________

Matt. 24:6  __________________________________________

Matt. 24:12  _________________________________________

Matt. 24:37, 38  ______________________________________

Luke 21:11  _________________________________________

Despite the ark's testament to the coming flood, people continued with their daily rounds of labor and desire, totally disregarding the event soon to come upon them.  Such will be the attitude of many people just before Christ returns.

But God calls upon His people to broadcast "a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power.  His character is to be made known.  Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth....

"Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, 'Behold your God.'  The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.  The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them."--Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416. (See Isa. 60:2; 40:9, 10.)

We have listened to the appeals of the foolish maidens and considered what their cries teach us. Look now upon the Light shining from the lamps of the five wise maidens. Are you on the pathway made visible by that Light? Outline for yourself all that is involved in being one of the believers represented by the wise maidens.

Friday September 19

FURTHER STUDY:   Review this week's memory text, 1 John 2:28.  Then read John 15:1-17.  What does it mean to abide in Christ?  How do these verses help us understand what it means to prepare for His return?

Also read any or all of the following:  Christ's Object Lessons, "To Meet the Bridegroom," pp. 405-421; The Great Controversy, "Prophecies Fulfilled," pp. 393, 394; "In the Holy of Holies, pp. 426, 427; The Story of Redemption, "The Second Angel's Message," "The Midnight Cry," pp. 367-374.

"All who wait for the heavenly Bridegroom are represented in the parable as slumbering because their Lord delayed His coming; but the wise roused themselves at the message of His approach, and responded to the message, and their spiritual discernment was not all gone, and they sprang into line.  As they took hold of the grace of Christ, their religious experience became vigorous and abundant and their affections were set upon things above.  They discerned where was the source of their supply, and appreciated the love that God had for them.  They opened their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit, by which the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts.  Their lights were trimmed and burning, and sent forth steady rays into the moral darkness of the world.  They glorified God, because they had the oil of grace in their hearts, and did the very work that their Master did before them--went forth to seek and to save those who were lost'....

"The very best credentials we can carry is love for one another.  All strife, all dissension, is to cease.  God will not accept the talents of the smartest, the most eloquent man if the inner lamp of the soul is not trimmed and burning.  There must be a consecrated heart, and consecrated surrender of the soul."--Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1099, 1100.

   1. According to the parable we have studied this week, what is wisdom?

  2. In a paragraph of four or five sentences, write what it means to keep watch for the Lord's return.

  3. What customs or events in your part of the world could you use to illustrate the meaning of the parable of the ten maidens?

SUMMARY:  The story in Matthew 25:1-13 is every bit a call to service as is the gospel commission of Matthew 28:19, 20.  Let us trim our lamps, replenish our oil, and be on our way.

More Powerful Than Magic, Part 1

Peter Tambala and Beverly H. Koester

Peter Tambala spent his school vacation canvassing near his home village in a remote area of Malawi.  The 18-year-old student--often walked six to twelve miles a day, carrying Bibles and literature to sell.  Church leaders welcomed the youth as a fellow worker and often invited him to eat at the ministers' table.  Sometimes they asked him to present a sermon or help with other church work besides his canvassing.

But Peter's acceptance by the ministers presented a problem for the older members.  Traditionally, youth were not to take part in the divine service.  This privilege was reserved for senior elected church officers only.  In some areas, to go against tradition sometimes brought retaliation by use of magic.

Since Peter had become a Christian, he had decided that magic was simply a superstition in people's mind.  But when a student at his school suddenly died, his friends said some others had put a curse on the boy because they were jealous that he was doing better than they.  "Magic is real," Peter said.  "And it is scary."

One day Peter visited an older man in his village.  The man warned Peter that he no longer seemed to be a "village boy," that he acted as if he had bettered himself, and that he could quickly become the victim of a spell cast on him if he appeared better than the other villagers.  Peter listened to the man out of respect but did not believe that someone from his own village would hurt him.  But later Peter began to think, What if magic is real.  The thought frightened him.

Peter talked to a trusted friend about how a Christian deals with magic.  "I know that the devil is real," he said, "and he does whatever he can to keep people on his side."  But his friend reminded him that Christians serve a God who is more powerful than the devil and his magic.  If we trust God for our strength, then the devil's magic cannot touch us.  But if we fear magic, we are saying magic is more powerful than God.

Peter affirmed his belief in God's power and thanked his friend for helping him remember that God is bigger than the devil.  Soon afterward, Peter returned to his canvassing work near his hometown.  Neither he nor his friend knew that their conversation that day was a preparation for a test Peter would soon face.

(Continued next week)

Beverly H. Koester is sponsorship coordinator in the Malawi Union in Eastern Africa. Peter is a student in Blantyre, Malawi.

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